Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Recording the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Here's the first thing: in order for the Sound Devices 702 to record simultaniously to the internal CF card and to an external hard drive, the 702 must be externally powered.
Additionally, doing so will generate a LOT of heat.
The location of the mics -- dead center front row of the balcony.
I was surprised that the balcony had audience in it. I hadn't really prepared for that. But I told them we were recording.
RCCNY rehearsing.
It's a very nice church and very comfortable but the pews are creaky. So recording here is nice but it's also kind of like recording on a sailing ship.


Nikolai Kachanov, the director of the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York, wrote these amazing pieces. We recorded them nigh on 6 years ago.

All the vocal performances were done (as far as I remember) at the Interfaith Center up near Columbia University. It was a while ago, so I don't exactly remember. I'm going to guess that we were using Neve 1272 preamps with AKG 460 mics with CK1 capsules. But we may have been using Rode NT1 large diaphragm microphones. Or a mix of those. I vaguely recall recording straight into Samplitude through an Apogee converter.

The music is brilliant. Check it out. Buy the CD.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Papa's Got a Brand-New Bag

So the Pandora Machine got itself one of these cheap Gator bags.
It's my bag, baby.
The purple thing on the left is an old model Battery Distribution System. There's an Anker 12volt 10,000 mAh battery in the pocket on the far right. The Tascam DR-680 sits in the center with a Lecrosonics receiver there in the top left corner. Along the near side of the bag are three Sennheiser E3 wireless receivers. Those two cylindrical holes are for handheld microphones I think. I don't know what to do with that space yet.
This bag is closed.

Russian Recording

So, recording Russian Chamber Chorus of New York. Here are my notes.
I discovered the one instance where I might want reading glasses and distance glasses in one pair of progressive bifocals. That's recording where I have a machine close by and then have to look in the distance at the subjects.
SD 702. Remember that you need external power if you're going to be using an external portable FireWire drive.
But you know what? Not really. Because the recorder (and faders, on a mixer) are really at the 22" computer distance rather than book-reading distance. So if I do end up with progressive bifocals one day they likely won't be reading/distance but rather computer/distance.
I used the Oktava 012 mics. Russian made and from The Sound Room. They sound great.
The Oktava mics are a bit further apart on this X/Y bar than I've been having them. Is that good? Bad? I don't know.
We did some back-and-forth about how far away the mics should be. Personally I'd put them either right behind the conductor or way up in the balcony. I feel like on the floor I get too much of the crinkling sounds the audience makes, but if I'm fairly close I get nice articulation off the voices and instruments. The further back I go, the better the "blend" in the room. Up in the balcony there's much less articulation but the audience is quieter.
These look higher up than they really are. They're only up as high as my AKG tripod mic stand will put them. 
So it's all a compromise.
What I did was set up in the back of the room, but then just before the performance I pushed the mic stand about 12 feet closer to the chorus. This was at Holy Trinity on 82nd Street. The shape of the space is interesting with a huge domed ceiling.
See? I'm cheating. I'm using the marks that are already on the floor for my mic positions. This will make it easier to replicate (or avoid) in the future.
Listening to the recordings last night I was pretty happy with them. But I am far from a neutral listener and after an evening of recording I have no critical distance anymore. I did, however, have some smoked mozzarella cheese and strawberries dipped in chocolate. But that has nothing to do with these recordings.

Blogs, Lenses, Suchwise

Here at blog.pleasurefortheempire.com be the crossroads between blog.pandoramachine.com and blog.tyrannosaurusmouse.com.

You're aware of that, right? Blog for movies, blog for music, blog for, well, whatever else? Good. Glad to know it.

So I spent another $400 on glasses. I'm now going to have reading glasses, computer glasses, and driving glasses. I tried progressive bifocals but they just didn't work for me. Tribeca Vision gave me a complete refund on my progressive lenses which is pretty nice of them.
As far as I can tell, the price difference between those places that are all like "Glasses for only $100!" and optometrists is really only about $40 at best. Because those cheap glasses advertised are always sans lens coatings and are just the cheapest lenses they have. And you never want those cheap lenses.
I wish I could get glasses in a drug store but the pupillary distance is always wrong on those over-the-counter glasses.
Having three pair of glasses is quite fussy. I'll admit that. I'm a fussy fellow. But I can live with it. So I will.

Dragons Reign o'er Me

We have the artwork and teaser for Dragon Reign from Ray Haboush.
Dig it.
 Those are the actual Sintel dragons as modified by Nathan Vegdahl.
Now, groove to the teaser.
You must go here to see it.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


So I've blogged about this web series before. High Maintenance.
You know how most short films are too long? They manage to really do an excellent job of getting the right pacing and the right thing for the story. The target of the story is a denouement which actually works. I really think these are well directed and well edited. This particular episode, I think, is my favorite. And that's a determination I came to even before I found out that Nat Cassidy is in it.

Really smart. Establishes the feel brilliantly. They do that thing where they do three whole sequences of things -- waking up, going to watch birds, going to work, before the story really gets started but they reveal the details of the character's life through subtle reveals. Very very smart.

Monday, April 22, 2013


You are utterly fascinated by relative broadcast levels of dialog, aren't you? Yes. Yes you are. 
The Angry Sound Professional explains the CALM act and what it really means. Here's part 1.
We used to have one of these jackets. It was stolen out of my car. 
In part 2 we go deeper into the meaning of dialnorm as Vince Tennant explains how the Act works. I suspect that part 3 will show how the act doesn't work but we're still waiting.

Ben Thomas Live on the Internets

If you hate people/going out/are too lazy/too poor to get to the theater, you will love seeing Ben Jaeger Thomas in CA$H Only at 10pm tonight, Monday April 22nd. All here at People's Improv. Ben goes on at 10, but the event is 7pm to 11pm.

Is that not good enough for you? Do you need a bunny butt?
There. Now.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Just publishing pictures.

I may have already published most, if not all, of these.

The Porcupine's Dream

Wednesday with the City Samanas, we had Ethan Rosenblatt over. Yes, Ethan and Lily did play at the same time although I could not actually record both of them at the same time. I do not know which song(s) Ethan plays on in the following album.
There is much in the way of material which could be edited and then put together on an album. I would go so far as to say that the only things we wouldn't do anything with are the "Eyes of the World" and the "Imaginary Opera". Everything else has at least some portion which I'd be more than happy to put on an album.

I have questions. Like, for instance, should I add a pair of dynamic microphones for the toms? I could throw a pair of '57's on there and use the Apogee converters' preamps. Or something. I just don't know. Do I know? No. No I do not know. Tell me.

Your Two Things for Today

As per comments below, PSA and Lindsay Stewart, some links:
[Edit: Ha! I had a link here to Wondershare. It apparently is/was a video conversion utility although it was based on a GPU - licensed application. Dorp! In any case, the company is apparently trying to turn themselves around or something and they actually asked me to remove the link. I have no idea why. Anyway, use JES Deinterlacer. It's great.]
Casper, from ThinkCrew is an excel call sheet generator.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Mind Bending

Brian blogged about his mind-transfer prop. The brain jacks look great. I'm very pleased with the Brazil-esque look of it.
Brain jacks. Jared Van Heel, master brain altering device, Tarantino Smith, Kimball Brown, and Julia Rae Maldonado.

Within minutes of making my last post on call sheets was
  1. everything fine?
  2. a fundamental error in what character was played by what actor made evident to me in an email by the screenwriter?
I'll let you guess.

Celtx Call Sheets

Getting call sheets out is the hardest part of filmmaking for me. Making them even remotely accurate is just a herculean task. Sheesh.

Up until now we've been using spreadsheets and manually filling in information on the call sheets. But on this movie I've been experimenting using Celtx.
Celtx will actually generate call sheets. One can "print" the call sheets to .pdf files (and then print the sheets). You do need to be careful that Celtx actually understands what character is in what scenes. 
  • Disadvantages include no specific place to put the address of the closest hospital.
  • Also, I'd like a place to put notes. 
But overall the Celtx call sheets look and work pretty well. We've only shot one day, of course, so who knows what other issues will come up? If a disaster happens I'll let you know.

Friday, April 19, 2013


Apparently for some people 4:2:0 is not a video sampling scheme or a code for smoking that Devil's Weed, but is a day for buying music at record stores.
My cousin Kim gives you tips on visiting your record store tomorrow in her Huffington Post article.

Kick Me

Kevin Kangas is doing a Kickstarter for his new movie Garden of Hedon. One big difference is that he's kickstarting a movie which has already been made.

That's an interesting way to go with a Kickstarter project.
Fund his project and make it a lot of money please.
Thing with me is that I adamantly refuse to enter the 21st Century and get a BluRay player. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

You don't see this every day

We played with TWO bass players last night. We couldn't really record both of them at the same time though.
Ethan Rosenblatt and Lily Kenner on basses.

Wild and crazy times. See?
Andrew Bellware, Greg Bartus, Ethan Rosenblatt.
 Rehearsals are a wild time don'tcha know?


Fortunately, Red Giant's BulletProof looks like a nice solution to our problems ingesting footage from the unhacked GH1 into Final Cut Pro.
Unfortunately, BulletProof is not actually compatible with Panasonic cameras.
Fortunately, Adobe Premiere will, as pointed out by Kangas in the comments below, work with Panasonic's .mts files.
Unfortunately, Premiere will not read and interpret those .mts files shot at 23.98 but in a 29.97 container properly.

Fortunately, the most recent version of JES Deinterlacer will read .mts files, reverse-telecine them, and create ProRes Quicktimes which can be read by Final Cut directly.
Unfortunately those same files don't seem to be readable by Premiere.
Fortunately there is a thing called Adobe Media Encoder.
Unfortunately it doesn't look like Adobe Media Encoder naturally does reverse telecine.

So... right now it looks like the JES Deinterlacer and Final Cut Pro. Unless it's the JES Deinterlacer and Premiere. I don't know. I'm sticking to FCP just because it's "the devil you know". But... I dunno.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

$32 over budget

So we had a shoot day and we needed 5 wireless mics and for some dumb reason I didn't bring one extra female XLR to male TRS for the fifth mic. Sheesh. It has to go in TRS. So I ran to Sam Ash in Edison, NJ of all places and asked for a cable. It actually took us a while and we found a 10-foot one. I really just wanted 18". So the dude looked some more and found, for five more dollars, a 3' (one meter) Monster Cable. He's all like "This is a much better cable."
I said "Meh. At least it has Neutrik connectors."
Him: "No really, it's special cable, the highs go down one pair of wires and the lows down another so they all end up getting there at the same time."
I actually said (and looking the whole time exactly like my Dad) "I don't believe any of that."
Monster cable nonsense. And I had a pair of perfectly serviceable Canare Star Quad cables sitting on the doorknob of the booth.
Tomorrow night we record some Samanas. I intend to record some stuff to use in The Imaginary Opera.
This setup is elegant and it sounds great.

The Bears of New York

Like half of the cast of Dragon Realm made this short film.

Chris Pope, Leslie Ann Chastain, and John Dillon.

New Workflow

Neoscene is dead. Also, it's just not really working for me. Following the post here I'm trying FCP and compressor.
It took two days to get this still of Julia Rae Maldonado without interlacing.

What's going on is that I'm having hellatious problems with interlacing. Which, seeing as how we're shooting in a progressive format, just shouldn't be happening.
I can't figure out why Neoscene is being such a problem with interlacing. For years Neoscene worked for us. Then suddenly it stopped working. I had to download a new version (and Cineform quickly got me a new serial number for which I am thankful) and I had trouble seemingly with the checkbox to filter 420 to 422.
But now even that doesn't work.
So the new way of bringing in footage from the GH1 is to

  1. Log and Transfer into Final Cut Pro. (We use ProRes SQ). And then:
  2. Set the footage to 23.976 using JES. Because, you know, why use one step when you can use two?

Final Cut Pro is terrible when it comes to data management. Why you would put final actual camera footage in a folder called "capture scratch" is completely beyond me. I mean seriously. Right?
Then with JES -- I can't actually find any instructions on the Internet which reflect the transcoding program with its most recent interface. So, uh, you kind of have to guess how to do a "reverse telecine" with it. If you click through all the menus and do what you think you should it seems to work out all right.

EDIT: it has not escaped my attention that perhaps this all means that we should be going to Red Giant's BulletProof.

Every Pop Song

I'm totally going to do the gloves-come-off dance. Plus, also, too. Best Buy is closing out their instrument department. Cheap new guitars even though they're not set up in any way.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

1301 Day 1 III

 Once everyone has their brains hooked up to Brian Schiavo's mind-melder, there's nothing you can't do. Stacey Raymond, Jared Van Heel, Tarantino Smith, Kimball Brown and Julia Rae Maldonado.
See? This is the kind of framing I was wanting. We shot all day on sticks 'till we got to the last scene and there I went handheld.

Jared Van Heel wearing the brain jack while Stacey Raymond turns it on.
 Between Brian's device and Caitlin's costumes we really had an easy time building this world.
We managed to shoot like this because we had wireless microphones on everyone. Although Tarantino's went "phulfhpatt" near the end of the shoot so he had to deliver his line's in to Kimball's microphone.

Tarantino Smith and Kimball Brown wait warily as their leader is locked in a virtual-cast.

It's a long hard day at the rebel headquarters.

Ew. Kissing.

My kisses are made of light.
Tarantino and Julia. I really dig these two-shots I like the bit of extra space they give us.
Julia Rae Maldonado, the girl of your dreams? Or your nightmares?
 Brian Schiavo build this brilliant brain jack.

Watching the prisoners get jacked in. Note that Julia is wearing her coat from home and has an ice pack in her hand. This is clearly just a rehearsal.

1301 Day 1 Part Deux

The overly sultry Tarantino Smith strikes a thoughtful pose.
Today ran really smoothly. I did underestimate by about an hour how long we'd be there. But we worked quickly and shot a hello amount of pages. And we got some fantastic performances with some beautiful actors in great costumes. What more could we possibly ask for?
Kimball Brown, Stacey Raymond, Jared Van Heel, Tarantino Smith, and Julia Rae Maldonado in a wide gang shot.
I'm amused by the sheer number of guns we had on set. Plus, we had Julia tied up for about half the day. Could Caitlin have chosen a more perfect wig for Julia? I mean Hello! No!
Alvarez menaces Avatar Barbara. The Martian Queen's lighting on these faces makes you want to reach out and touch them, doesn't it?
 We did in fact run through a lot of pages. One scene ran over five minutes long. And the warehouse was cold today which was hardest on Julia because everyone else had layers.
Julia Rae Maldonado has her wig fixed by Caitlin Cisek. Note that's my hoodie covering Julia up in-between takes.

Kimball Brown in a sort of "lucky" take -- she'd actually walked out of her own light but into this very interesting light to do a couple lines. Serendipity it is.

Right. Exactly. This is what we've come to expect.

1301 Day 1 Part 1

Today was the first day of shooting Android Masquerade.
Kimball Brown, Stacey Raymond, Jared Van Heel, Tarantino Smith, and Julia Rae Maldonado in the rebels' hideout.
Caitlin Cisek did an absolutely knock-out job with the costumes.
Kimball Brown, Stacey Raymond, and Jared Van Heel.
The day went a bit longer than I'd intended. We had an 11am call at the train station and were wrapped by 8pm still -- I was tired by the end of it.
One of the ideas we'd had was to shoot in these sort of medium two or three-shots. That, I think, mostly worked.
Stacey Raymond in her techno gear. She has an engine that she's working at. And her jumpsuit is just amazing.

Jared Van Heel interrogates the prisoner.
 The Queen of Mars did all the lighting. I love the way the faces all modeled in the light.
Julia Rae Maldonado looks very different from how she looked in Dragon Realm.
We really haven't seen this environment in any of our movies before. It's almost a set that's built of boxes which hold enormous sheets of glass. And some computer server cases. I think.
More Julia Rae Maldonado.
Caitlin could not have chosen a more perfect wig for Julia. (Poor Julia whumped her thumb really hard in the very first take.)